Less than two years ago, the American taxpayers bailed out two of Michigan's largest employers. Years of poor management, a belligerent labor force, and aggressive foreign competitors who were willing to listen to the consumer drove once proud GM and Chrysler into a tailspin.
Mark Steyn at the time correctly called GM a company that provided health care and retirement benefits to hundreds of thousands of policy holders while also happening to make cars on the side. They were doomed.
But, guess who stepped up to the plate (though some of us quite reluctantly?)
The taxpayers borrowed billions of dollars from the Chinese to bail out Chrysler, GM, and the UAW. While many private investors had their investments illegally wiped out in favor of propping up underfunded union pension plans, the UAW walked out of the ensuing mushroom cloud carrying a new and significant ownership stake in the salvaged companies--now viable in the marketplace with its more manageable salary and benefits packages. (An infusion of borrowed billions into corporate coffers didn't hurt either.)
But, after a couple of years, the UAW natives are once again restless. Recent profits at GM and Ford (who received no bailout) and only modest losses at Chrysler seem to have wiped out the memories of the union brass who are now clambering for a return of salaries and benefits to levels that helped sink the Big Three to begin with.
After a decade of contracts filled with concessions to save the Detroit Three -- such as plant closures, diversion of performance bonuses to cover health care costs, loss of some holidays and suspension of cost-of-living increases -- frustrated workers are eager to regain what they've lost.A word of caution to the UAW.
They see the automakers earning billions and executives cashing in on the profits. Last year, Ford earned $6.6 billion and General Motors earned $4.7 billion. Chrysler still lost $652 million but made an operating profit and is projected to be in the black this year.
"In 2009, when we adopted some modifications, there were a number of things that were suspended. ... Hopefully those will be back on the table and restored," said Jeff Manning, president of UAW Local 31, which represents GM workers at the Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas.
The taxpayers are largely aware that the biggest losers in the auto bailouts were the taxpayers themselves.
The rank and file were able to keep their jobs. They retained most of their benefits. They are now working for vastly more stable companies. Their union owns a stake in now profitable companies.
None of that seems to matter much. Sadly, the message has been lost.
And, it drives me crazy.
Hey, (bangs head against wall) aren't you paying attention? We are the ones that bailed you out. Sure, you anted up quite a bit too but, it was your job being saved, dumbass, not mine!
Go ahead and hint at a strike. Make a fist and carry a sign. Work up a couple of new catchy slogans too for all I care.
But, don't think for one minute that I won't be able to figure out who you are protesting against.